Christianity is not under attack, despite what Kim Reynolds implies

Consider this a wake-up call, because it’s anyone’s guess what the next step could be for Iowa unless we use our voice and our votes to stop this.

Have you ever woken up to the point where you no longer know where you are?

That’s me lately, and I don’t mean it in the way you’re probably imagining. I mean it about this state, Iowa, and where It is these days.

Core freedoms that we have taken for granted – to protect our property and our bodies, to love and worship (or not) as we please – are being robbed or threatened. Then the rationalizations offered for the changes turn logic upside down.

In signing her “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law, Governor Kim Reynolds ironically declared, “The right to religious freedom is granted to us by our creator – not by the government.” But putting the government into religion is exactly what it did, and not to promote religious tolerance or core teachings like loving our neighbors and serving those in need.

The law allows people to invoke their religious beliefs to discriminate against others, even in non-secular, civil society.

The same week, the governor cited her personal views to justify restricting abortion rights, even though most Iowans support legal abortions. “As a pro-life governor, I will do everything I can to protect the innocent unborn and promote strong, healthy families,” she said of the impending Iowa Supreme Court ruling that will determine whether her abortion ban can last beyond six weeks. quick effect.

More: Kim Reynolds retaliated against public education at the expense of essential teacher training

Planned Parenthood attorney Peter Im framed the issue this way: “This court has recognized that autonomy and dominion over one’s body goes to the heart of what it means to be free.”

The freedoms for many Iowans are being pulled out like a rug from under us and replaced by the increasing exercise of autonomy through leadership that neither reflects the will of the public nor serves its needs. And it’s no longer a simple clash of Republican and Democratic priorities. The leaders’ deference to special interests and lobbying groups such as big agriculture, religious institutions and the National Rifle Association trumps traditional Republican priorities such as lower taxes and less government intrusion into people’s lives.

Imagine how previous Republican leaders in Iowa would have felt if they had forced private property owners to let a private carbon transportation company drill into their land to build pipelines without any public benefit.

Consider how hard former Governor Bob Ray worked to get Iowa to sponsor and welcome Vietnam War refugees. Now consider Reynolds’ new law that gives Iowa police the authority to act as federal immigration agents and arrest any incoming undocumented immigrant who has previously been removed from Iowa or the country. While Ray provided an example of empathy for families forced to flee their home countries, Reynolds portrays them as criminals.

More: Do not surrender the authority of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to Kim Reynolds

Remember how in December, despite her claims to support families, the governor denied $29 million in federally funded grocery cards for 240,000 low-income Iowa children? She complained of childhood obesity. Now she’s expanding the Healthy Meals Program by $900,000 (also federal money) by offering competitive grants to local organizations that may or may not be able to meet the need.

Iowa’s leaders once prided themselves on and funded our public schools to be great. Through the voucher program, even current tuition-paying private school students who don’t need the assistance receive state money. And it goes to predominantly religious schools, which is what most private schools in Iowa are. What should have been a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state was circumvented by the state giving taxpayer money to parents instead of directly to the schools.

The harm lies not only in the voucher law itself, but also in the one-sided process used to achieve this. Remember in 2022 when some lawmakers in Reynolds’ own Republican Party opposed the voucher plan? She had others challenge them in elections and win, using money from the American Federation For Children, a PAC founded by former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. DeVos’ goal was to implement vouchers across the country. That is the same DeVos, the New York Times wrote in 2021, “will be remembered as perhaps the most disastrous leader in the history of the Department of Education.”

To complete the cycle, McKenzie Snow, a former aide to DeVos, has now been confirmed by the Senate to head the Iowa State Education Department. Every Democrat voted against Snow, who never had a teaching credential and whose previous education policies involved advocating school choice.

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Whether it’s school vouchers, repeated attempts to undermine abortion rights and transgender rights, or her Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the governor isn’t just putting religion into public policy. As one observer of such measures notes in Rob Reiner’s documentary “God & Country,” “There is no religious freedom without freedom of religion.” Laws like these are based on the false premise that Christianity is under attack, fueling a dangerous movement of Christian nationalism across the country, according to the film. The January 6 attacks on the US Capitol are an example of this.

Narrated primarily by former members of the movement, the film shows how the idea of ​​persecution is being invoked nationwide with buzzwords like “woke” and “critical race theory” to undermine America’s growing multiculturalism. They spread the false idea that America was founded as a Christian nation that is now under attack.

As a narrator reminds us, “The US was the first country with a secular constitution and no religious tests for public office.”

A 2016 clip inside Liberty University shows Donald Trump telling a crowd during his presidential campaign: “Christianity is under tremendous siege. … Christians do not use their power. You have the strongest lobby ever, but I don’t hear anything about a Christian lobby.”

Trump received 81% of the vote from white evangelical Christians that year. Evangelical entrepreneurs are said to be raising billions of dollars for political campaigns that play on fear and anger and defend autocracy and authoritarianism.

In a “free” nation or state, no one else gets to dictate how the rest of us live as we obey the laws.

If you don’t believe in abortion, you shouldn’t have one.

Public money must be spent on public purposes. Consider this a wake-up call, because it’s anyone’s guess what the next step could be for Iowa unless we use our voice and our votes to stop this.

Rekha Basu is a syndicated columnist, editorial writer and reporter whose work has appeared in all but two U.S. states. She retired as a columnist for The Des Moines Register in 2022.